EVEN THE MOST COMPETENT MEETING PLANNERS can't control the weather on the day of a golf event. Nor can they keep executives from canceling a tournament when budgets get tight. And, even with a good group history, they can't always predict how many attendees will choose golf over other draws of the destination. Despite all these potential missteps, golf event planners still must have strategies to keep their tournaments out of the rough.

To begin, bad weather must be planned for. Follow these five steps to cover your bases:

  1. STUDY THE WEATHER

    Play it smart. Don't schedule golf events in the Southeast at the height of the hurricane season. And stay away from the Northwest in the spring. In other words, research the rainfall averages for potential destinations and avoid wet seasons.

  2. RESEARCH THE COURSE'S ABILITY TO DRAIN WATER

    At some locales, a short rain shower can turn the fairways to mush and the sand bunkers to mud. Other courses can shrug off a deluge, and your participants can go back on the course immediately.

  3. BRING YOUR EXPERTS INDOORS

    If you have golf entertainers booked (a trick-shot artist or a golf-clinic leader, for example), evaluate the resort's facilities in advance to see if there is a protected environment where they could perform while your group watches.

  4. CONSIDER BACKUP ACTIVITIES IN CASE GOLF IS CANCELED

    While spas, museum visits, and indoor golf games may all be options, evaluate each to see how it fits your audience, your budget, and your objectives. Indoor golf-related fun might include a storytelling session (where attendees share their most interesting or funniest golf experience), chipping competitions (where participants hit plastic balls into baskets), or an educational talk (where the pro discusses the rules and etiquette of the game).

  5. DEVELOP A CONTINGENCY PLAN THAT ADJUSTS THE DAY'S TIMETABLE

    For example, if your post-golf schedule includes a cocktail hour, dinner, awards presentation, entertainment, and a speaker, be prepared to move up the schedule by an hour or two.

What About Your Deposit?

Contingency plans are great, but what about the deposit you made to reserve the golf course?

Don't expect to see that money again. If the course is closed for the day because of rain, standard golf course contracts issue full credit for use on a future date, not a refund. If the rain arrives after play has begun, or if there's a light rain but the course remains open, then golf course contracts usually say that no credit is due.

Planners can try to negotiate better terms up front. If you're a one-time, out-of-town group, the course isn't likely to budge. But if you're a longstanding customer, or if you're using a golf planner who has an important relationship with the course, you may have more leverage, and the course might be willing to negotiate weather clauses.

Read the Cancellation Clause

Business-related cancellations and weather-related cancellations are first cousins — they are similar, but not identical.

Standard golf course contracts contain specific language for group golf cancellations. Penalties can be triggered 90, 60, or 30 days out from the tournament. Planners, of course, like to have language that gives them maximum flexibility. Golf properties, on the other hand, strive to turn the cancellation into a mere rescheduling. Read the contract and know the cancellation dates, and if you don't like the cancellation window, negotiate to change it.

If you cancel at the last minute and rescheduling isn't an option, then the contract language is likely to make you responsible for full payment. The contract's flexibility depends on the nature of the business relationship, the season (peak, shoulder, or off-peak), and how close to the date the cancellation is made.

The same principles apply if you book 70 tee times but only 20 players sign up. If you share the bad news 40 days out and have a 30-day cancellation clause, then you're fine. If you wait until the last minute, though, you are at the course's mercy. They may or may not give you a mulligan.